It’s been a bad year so far. The government is on the attack like never before.
In February they banned 17 organisations. They have clamped down on the universities and they have already silenced two newspapers.
The government is now about to sink its teeth into the trade unions. By the time you read this story, they will probably have passed a new law that will badly weaken the unions. It will be much more difficult for workers to strike – and they will lose many other rights they have fought long and hard for.
Yes, the people of this country and their organisations are feeling the boot. But do not despair, all hope is not lost!
The good news is that never has there been a stronger chance of the two biggest worker organisations, Cosatu and Nactu, joining forces and working together. In the last month two very big steps were taken on the road to worker unity:
• Nactu met with the ANC for the first time in Lusaka. At the meeting it was agreed that all “legitimate” organisations have a place in the struggle. The two organisations agreed that “unity in action” is the only way to bring about the “quick defeat of apartheid.” They both agreed that it is very important for the trade union movement in the country to strive towards unity with the aim of joining together under one big federation.
• At Cosatu’s special congress at Wits university, members decided that Cosatu should call for a meeting of a “broad range of anti – apartheid organisations”. The meeting made it clear that organisations that did not believe in “non-racialism” should also be invited. This opens the way for Cosatu to work with Nactu, and other “Black Consciousness” organisations.
Already metal workers in Cosatu and Nactu have come together to fight for new wage demands — and they have promised to strike together if these demands are not won.
It is still too early to get excited about Cosatu and Nactu joining hands together under one huge federation. But at least both sides are now talking about working with each other. That is surely the best news of the year, so far!